“We had classes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then I usually took a nap before digging into the reading and homework until 1 a.m.”

Jumping over waterfalls and visiting Sufis in Morocco may not sound like serious Arabic study, but consider this: First, you need to make friends out of strangers, then figure out how to rent a car in Arabic or discern when to hop off the night train, where no stations are announced and signs are only in Arabic. It’s an intense way to learn, but David Goldstein loves it. 

Goldstein ’16 (Sharon, Mass.) has long been fascinated by languages. In high school, he studied French, Spanish, and American Sign Language, then added Arabic over the last two summers.

His introduction to the language came the summer following high school, when he began his study in Morocco through the U.S. State Department’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth. The warm hospitality of Moroccans and the intricacies of the language motivated him to continue studying Arabic at Macalester and to figure out a way to return to Morocco.

Last summer Goldstein was back, thanks to a Boren summer program scholarship for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors. With his majors in computer science and international studies, the program was a perfect fit—but not easy. “I was working nonstop,” says Goldstein. “We had classes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then I usually took a nap before digging into the reading and homework until 1 a.m.”

Each Boren scholar designs his or her own program. Goldstein studied oral and written Arabic and Islamic art at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, “a beautiful mountain community an hour and a half away from the next town.” The university serves primarily Moroccans.

Boren Scholarships give American students the opportunity to study in countries considered critical to national security. They are named for former U.S. Senator David Boren, principal author of the legislation that created them. In return for the scholarships, students agree to work for the federal government for a year after graduating. Although that is still several years away, Goldstein speculates that he may use his computer science knowledge either in Washington, D.C. or abroad.

Meanwhile, he is keeping up his Arabic with a translation class in religious studies, as a leader of the Middle Eastern Students Association, and with Mac Hope, for whom he translates letters exchanged between American students and their correspondents in Syria and Iraq.

 Did he ever feel ill at ease as a Jewish man living in a mostly Muslim country? No, says Goldstein. “Morocco is very accepting of Jews. Jews are citizens and there is a Jewish museum. People watch Al Jazeera, but they are more likely to talk about food, economic security, and education than the Palestinian conflict.”

October 1 2013

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